A Guide To Improving Processes In Your Business

Every business can be broken down into the processes that they rely on to run. These processes are the work tasks that your team completes for all sorts of goals, resulting in some form of output. This output can be the products and services that you provide, customer outreach and customer service, or the processes that allow for internal efficiency and effectiveness. But, what can you do to improve how your business handles processes? The truth is that there's a lot of ways to improve your approach to processes, and here are a few of them.

Track and analyze each process
First of all, you need to know what you're actually improving on. To that end, you should consider making use of a productivity KPI tracker. Figure out which indicators are the best measures of success regarding a process (and be aware that time is not always the most important metric to measure by) and start tracking your team's performance regarding these tasks. This can help you get a somewhat objective measurement of how current processes are handled. It's up to you to decide whether or not the current KPI results are indicators of a process that is already being successfully handled or if there is work necessary. Either way, you have a measurement that might allow you to see improvement easily in the future.

Break each process down into steps
To make sure that you understand each process well, it's a good idea to break it right down to its most basic elements. This might not be necessary for all processes, as there are some that are simple enough to constitute single steps, themselves. However, there are apps to help break down tasks into steps so you can approach them more like a to-do list. You might not be able to identify ways to streamline or aid the efficiency of entire processes, but you might be able to identify individual steps that can be changed, which will then change the nature of the process as a result. Sometimes, this may mean using a different piece of software better suited to the task or changing how an employee approaches an issue.

Team performance matters as well
If a process is being done more inefficiently than you would like across the whole business, then there is a systemic problem with the process and you shouldn't look to pass the blame on to any individual team member. However, if you're tracking KPIs across the team, then you may recognize that some individual team members are much less efficient or effective at certain tasks. Try to find ways to positively adjust their performance, before you move to the negative adjustments of reprimand or punishment. Additional training can almost always help, not only in teaching new competencies, but in improving staff morale, motivation, and productivity as well, which can be just as important in improving their individual performance.

Understand each process's importance
While each process can be improved, you can also improve how your individual team members look at and handle the processes that are their slate for the day. Your team members are likely to have multiple responsibilities each day and, realistically speaking, there will be more tasks than they have the time to handle, if not every day, then some days. To that end, helping them figure out which tasks deserve the best of their time and attention using tools like an action priority matrix can be a great help to how they approach processes. By working out which are both the most important and the most urgent, they can ensure that their time is spent as productively as possible on the processes that are most important to the overall goals.

Fitting them effectively in projects
Some processes are completed with contained, individual output and goals that might not affect others' work too much. However, many processes are part of a larger project, and every project is made up of a number of processes. As such, you can improve each individual process and the overall project itself through project management tools. This often means planning out the order of processes and how the output of one process affects another process. Some processes need to be put before the other, and improved communication through project management can allow you to ensure that processes are handled to make sure that the input for each step is prepared by the time that the workers behind the next process require it.

Get lean with them
Aside from the tips named above, there is a discipline in process planning that aims to take a comprehensive approach to improve the processes and systems that keep the business running. Lean six sigma is a methodology that breaks down how you approach processes, looking at how to prevent loss (including lost time) by streamlining and planning them as efficiently as possible. In earning a lean six sigma certification, you and your team could get into the habit of eliminating waste and maximizing operational efficiency across the board. Of course, it takes work and time to keep up with these standards over time.

Consider what you can automate
Of course, improving processes isn't all about how individual people handle them. Rather, it can be about making use of the right tools so that people don't have to be as involved in the process, at all. Process automation is largely being done through software nowadays, and there are few positions or industries that cannot enjoy the benefits of automation. Of course, it's not a perfect system. Automated systems still require a level of supervision and training to operate, but getting your team used to working with automated tools can free up their time for the processes and tasks that still require more manual involvement from them. Consider each step of the process and whether or not it's worth investing in the tools that can automate them, making them both more efficient and less prone to error.

Systematize how you handle it
Even if you're not automating all that work, you can take a more machine-like approach to how they are handled. Systemization is a process by which you take work tasks or processes, use the tips above to find ways to improve them, and then make sure that those steps are replicable across the business. As such, after improving processes, you should make sure that those improvements and the step-by-step of each process are documented, with a focus on making it as easy to learn as possible. This way, when new employees handle those processes, they can benefit from the fact that they have already been “all figured out.”

Keep refining and reiterating
The steps above can help you improve processes across your business, but it's important to realize that these changes are not a “one and done.” Rather, this is an approach that has to be repeated every time you introduce new processes to the business and even every now and then regarding processes you have already taken the time to improve. Changes in work standards, technology, and skills can always help you find new ways to make work processes more efficient and effective.

Which of the steps above work best in improving your business processes is going to largely be down to which processes you're working with, how they can be automated or aided, as well as how they fit in the goal towards larger projects. Hopefully, the tips help you see some heightened efficiency and productivity as a result of improved process planning.

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